“Angowrie is deserted now, all the shops cleaned out and most of the houses stripped of anything useful. Before the virus, when the town was still a town, we thought our isolation would save us.
– Mark Smith, The Road to Winter
Since a deadly virus and the violence that followed wiped out his parents and most of his community, Finn has lived alone on the rugged coast with only his loyal dog Rowdy for company.
He has stayed alive for two winters—hunting and fishing and trading food, and keeping out of sight of the Wilders, an armed and dangerous gang that controls the north, led by a ruthless man named Ramage.
But Finn’s isolation is shattered when a girl runs onto the beach. Rose is a Siley—an asylum seeker—and she has escaped from Ramage, who had enslaved her and her younger sister, Kas. Rose is desperate, sick, and needs Finn’s help. Kas is still missing somewhere out in the bush. And Ramage wants the girls back—at any cost.
When a book lands on your desk with a claim likening it to one of your favourite childhood series, your expectations soar. It is a dangerous thing to do! The Tomorrow series by John Marden was my first introduction to the post-apocalyptic world and to dystopian fiction. The post-apocalyptic genre is a well-trodden path and while Smith hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel with The Road to Winter, he has written a story that readers will really love.
Finn and his loyal companion Rowdy have survived on their own for two winters since the virus and the subsequent violence killed both his parents and the rest of the population. Finn has been living off the stores his father collected before his death and his survival skills have kept him alive this long. He keeps a mostly solitary existence – lonely yet content – however this is interrupted one day when Finn meets Rose, a Siley running from the violent and malevolent Ramage, leader of the Wilders. Rose is in no state to search for her sister Kas whom she was separated from days before, so Finn decides to trust Rose and help her find her sister. For the first time, Finn doesn’t have his own safety to consider and in helping Rose, Finn ends up with a target on his back too. Will they find Kas before Ramage and his men do?
The main protagonist Finn is a good kid. He spends his time rabbit hunting and surfing – his only escape – and appreciates the beauty of the world around him. He has excellent survival skills and seems to understand the land he lives on. He is kind and generous and doesn’t appear to be poisoned by his situation nor have any evil inside him. He is curious about Rose and genuinely interested in who she is and where she comes from. Rose is a Siley – an asylum seeker who was sold to a family who couldn’t have children of their own. The reader gets the feeling that Siley’s are treated like slaves, beneath those who they’re owned by. Although Rose claims the family treated her and Kas fairly well, it is clear that others don’t share the same views. Ramage and the other Wilders are menaces and when the themes of the book deal with rape and human rights, you get a pretty good idea of their character. Smith shows sympathy and concern for those who are marginalised – in this case asylum seekers and females in general – and I really like that. Because of these issues, it also makes it a hard book to recommend. I would suggest this book straddles the upper young adult market and adult fiction. The first of three books, The Road to Winter is a story about survival, honour and friendship – great read!
AUTHOR: Mark Smith
PUBLISHER: Text Publishing
PUB DATE: 27 June 2016
Thank you to Text Publishing for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!